ED RUSCHA (B. 1937)
Property from the Estate of Sondra Gilman
ED RUSCHA (B. 1937)


ED RUSCHA (B. 1937)
signed and dated 'Ed Ruscha 1987' (on the reverse); signed again, titled and dated again 'ED RUSCHA "AFFILIATION" 1987' (on the stretcher)
acrylic on canvas
60 x 105 in. (152.4 x 266.7 cm.)
Painted in 1987.
Robert Miller Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 1987
E. Ellis, C. Seebohm and C. S. Sykes, At Home with Art: How Art Lovers Live with and Care for Their Treasures, New York, 1999, p. 147 (illustrated).
R. Dean and E. Wright, Edward Ruscha: Catalogue Raisonne of the Paintings Volume Three: 1983-1987, New York, 2007, pp. 384-385 (illustrated).
New York, Robert Miller Gallery, Ed Ruscha, November 1987.
London, Hayward Gallery; Munich, Haus der Kunst and Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting, October 2009-September 2010, pp. 139 and 186 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

“I’ve always had a deep respect for things that are odd, for things which cannot be explained. Explanations seem to me to sort of finish things off” (E. Ruscha, quoted by B. Blistene in “B. Blistene: A Conversation with Edward Rushca” reproduced in Ed Ruscha, exh. cat., Centre Cultural de la Fondacio Caixa de Pensions, Barcelona, 1990, pp. 36-38).

Although the subject matter is reminiscent of small town America, Ed Ruscha’s 1987 painting, Affiliation, evokes an eerie, otherworldly presence. The artist’s iconic pairing of incongruous words and images is on full display here—the phantasmal apparitions contrast sharply with the clear-cut style and bureaucratic tone of the text. Acquired from the Robert Miller Gallery in 1987, Affiliation has been in the late Sondra Gilman's collection since the year it was painted. Over the course of several decades, Gilman amassed a world-class grouping of painting and sculpture by leading names in the 20th century canon of art history, including Ed Ruscha, Frank Stella, Kenneth Noland, Agnes Martin and Andy Warhol.
Affiliation’s figures materialize from the ether like a lifelong yet indistinct memory or an analog, black and white film reel, suggesting a surrealistic dreamscape. A foreboding fog lingers in the air, the hazy forms juxtaposed against the artwork’s namesake. The word “AFFILIATION” appears towards the base of the work, painted meticulously. A perfectly straight line follows the word.Painted in a stark black and white color palette, the work emits a charged, precarious aura. Negative space abounds in the composition, but the church’s spire acts as a visual lightning rod against the blurred edges of the clouds; the point of the belfry appears in razor sharp focus and demands the viewer’s attention.
Although Ed Ruscha is most commonly associated with a West Coast sensibility, palm trees harkening to Californian landscapes, the artist grew up in Omaha, Oklahoma. Ruscha left for California at the age of 19 to study at the Chouinard Art Institute (now California Institute of the Arts), but his childhood in Omaha left an indelible impression on him, reflected across his oeuvre. Early on in his life, Ruscha was inspired by comic books, but he also acknowledges the influence of religion and the church: “If I’m honest, the ornamentation and ritual of the Church also stayed with me, like silver threads, and connected me early on to the world of art” (E. Ruscha as quoted in K. Crow, Ed Ruscha Examines His Oklahoma Roots, Wall Street Journal, New York, 2021.)
In addition to Ruscha’s visual humor and dry wit, there is an undeniable gravitas and seriousness that underlies his work, which can perhaps be attributed to Ruscha’s early experience with Christianity. Affiliation presents the viewer with a monochrome, non-descript building that appears to be a church. Ruscha pushes the audience to critically engage with the image and define for themselves what affiliations they might have with the imagery- in Ruscha’s works, clarity is something to be worked out in the viewer’s own mind.

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